A few years ago, NASA senior space scientist David Morrison debunked an apocalyptic claim as a hoax.
No, there’s no such thing as a planet called Nibiru, he said. No, it’s not a brown dwarf surrounded by planets, as iterations of the claim suggest. No, it’s not on a collision course toward Earth. And yes, people should “get over it.”
But the claim has been getting renewed attention recently. Added to it is the precise date of the astronomical event leading to Earth’s destruction. And that, according to David Meade, is in six days — Sept. 23, 2017. Unsealed, an evangelical Christian publication, foretells the Rapture in a viral, four-minute YouTube video, complete with special effects and ominous doomsday soundtrack. It’s called “September 23, 2017: You Need to See This.”
Why Sept. 23, 2017?
Meade’s prediction is based largely on verses and numerical codes in the Bible. He’s honed in one number: 33.
“Jesus lived for 33 years. The name Elohim, which is the name of God to the Jews, was mentioned 33 times [in the Bible],” Meade told The Washington Post. “It’s a very biblically significant, numerologically significant number. I’m talking astronomy. I’m talking the Bible … and merging the two.”
And Sept. 23 is 33 days since the Aug. 21 total solar eclipse, which Meade believes is an omen.
He points to the Book of Revelation, which he said describes the image that will appear in the sky on that day, when Nibiru is supposed to rear its ugly head, eventually bringing fire, storms and other types of destruction.
The book describes a woman “clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head” who gives birth to a boy who will “rule all the nations with an iron scepter” while she is threatened by a red seven-headed dragon. The woman then grows the wings of an eagle and is swallowed up by the earth.
The belief, as previously described by Gary Ray, a writer for Unsealed, is that the constellation Virgo — representing the woman — will be clothed in sunlight, in a position that is over the moon and under nine stars and three planets. The planet Jupiter, which will have been inside Virgo — in her womb, in Ray’s interpretation — will move out of Virgo, as though she is giving birth.
To make clear, Meade said he’s not saying the world will end Saturday. Instead, he claims, the prophesies in the Book of Revelation will manifest that day, leading to a series of catastrophic events that will happen over the course of weeks.
“The world is not ending, but the world as we know it is ending,” he said, adding later: “A major part of the world will not be the same the beginning of October.”
Meade’s prediction has been dismissed as a hoax not only by NASA scientists, but also by people of faith.
Ed Stetzer, a pastor and executive director of Wheaton College’s Billy Graham Center, first took issue with how Meade is described in some media articles.
“There’s no such thing as a Christian numerologist,” he told The Post. “You basically got a made-up expert in a made-up field talking about a made-up event. … It sort of justifies that there’s a special secret number codes in the Bible that nobody believes.”
Meade said he never referred to himself as a Christian numerologist. He’s a researcher, he said, and he studied astronomy at a university in Kentucky, though he declined to say which one, citing safety reasons. His website says he worked in forensic investigations and spent 10 years working for Fortune 1000 companies. He’s also written books. The most recent one is called “Planet X — The 2017 Arrival.”
Stetzer said that while numbers do have significance in the Bible, they shouldn’t be used to make sweeping predictions about planetary motions and the end of Earth.
“Whenever someone tells you they have found a secret number code in the Bible, end the conversation,” he wrote in an article published Friday in Christianity Today. “Everything else he or she says can be discounted.”
That is not to say that Christians don’t believe in the Bible’s prophesies, Stetzer said, but baseless theories that are repeated and trivialized embarrass people of faith.
“We do believe some odd things,” he said. “That Jesus is coming back, that he will set things right in the world, and no one knows the day or the hour.”
The doomsday date was initially predicted to be in May 2003, according to NASA. Then it was moved to Dec. 21, 2012, the date that the Mayan calendar, as some believed, marked the apocalypse.
Morrison, the NASA scientist, has given simple explanations debunking the claim that a massive planet is on course to destroy Earth. If Nibiru is, indeed, as close as conspiracy theorists believe to striking Earth, astronomers, and anyone really, would’ve already seen it.
“It would be bright. It would be easily visible to the naked eye. If it were up there, you could see it. All of us could see it. … If Nibiru were real and it were a planet with a substantial mass, then it would already be perturbing the orbits of Mars and Earth. We would see changes in those orbits due to this rogue object coming in to the inner solar system,” Morrison said in a video.
Doomsday believers also say that Nibiru is on a 3,600-year orbit. That means it had already come through the solar system in the past, which means we should be looking at an entirely different solar system today, Morrison said.
“Its gravity would’ve messed up the orbits of the inner planets, the Earth, Venus, Mars, probably would’ve stripped the moon away completely,” he said. “Instead, in the inner solar system, we see planets with stable orbits. We see the moon going around the Earth.”
And if Nibiru is not a planet and is, in fact, a brown dwarf, as some claims suggest — again, we would’ve already seen it.
“Everything I’ve said would be worse with a massive object like a brown dwarf,” Morrison said. “That would’ve been tracked by astronomers for a decade or more, and it would already have really affected planetary objects.”
Some call Nibiru “Planet X,” as Meade did in the title of his book. Morrison said that’s a name astronomers give to planets or possible objects that have not been found. For example, when space scientists were searching for a planet beyond Neptune, it was called Planet X. And once it was found, it became Pluto.
Stetzer, the pastor, encouraged Christians to be critical, especially in an information era marred with fake news stories.
“It’s simply fake news that a lot of Christians believe the world will end on September 23,” Stetzer wrote. “Yet, it is still a reminder that we need to think critically about all the news.”
He took issue with a Fox News story with a headline that appears to give credence to the doomsday claim — and was published in the Science section under the label “Planets.”
“Every time end-of-the-world predictions resurface in the media, it is important that we ask ourselves, ‘Is this helpful?’ ” Stetzer wrote. “Is peddling these falsehoods a good way to contribute to meaningful, helpful discussions about the end of times?”
Julie Zauzmer contributed to this story.